Sculpture I Camel thorn wood and steel clamps 70 7/8 x 23 5/8 x 13 3/4in (180 x 60 x 35cm)
EXHIBITED: Windhoek, National Art Gallery of Namibia, 1998
LITERATURE: H. Bogatzke, R. Brockmann and C. Ludszuweit, Ondambo-African Art Forum/Afrika Kunst Forum, pp 156, 162, 196 and 197
El Anatsui began using the chainsaw as a modern drawing tool during a residence in Cummington, Massachusetts in 1980. "Each process has its own peculiarities or language. [The chainsaw's] language [is] of violence, of tearing, of clawing, of dividing."
The chainsaw's frightening ability to tear through wood becomes a metaphor for the way in which the western powers carved up and divided the African continent, ripping through and destroying both indigenous culture and the local histories dependent upon it. He employs the common idioms and grammar of contemporary western art at the same time as actively undermining them by introducing and juxtaposing ideas, techniques and material from never-yet-subjugated areas that lie far beyond the pale of western art.
The present work is made of camel thorn wood and was produced at ONDAMBO, the First International Workshop for African Artists, which was held at Arandis in the Namib desert from 4-12 December 1997. El Anatsui participated with eight other prominent African artists: Joe Madisia, Willie Bester, Valente Malangatana, António Olé, Tapfuma Gutsa, El Loko, John Liebenberg, and Romouald Hazoumé.
It is sold together with a DVD of the artist making the work.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Spring Aganza Africa: African Art Now (London, 2008), p. 34